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Love antiques, but auctions are usually rigged

Posted by filix (My Page) on
Sat, Sep 5, 09 at 7:04

Hello. I love old stuff. It has a warmth that new things just don't have. But I could fill a book with the unscrupulous things I learned that go on at auctions. Sorry don't mean to be negative. filix.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Love antiques, but auctions are usually rigged

Know your auctioneer! I do and know which one give a quick knock to a shill for a really good item that seems to be at the wrong sale.
And I well know the "looks like capo di monte" or "might be sterling".
But I sure wouldn't say auctions are usually rigged....there are laws preventing such things and if you see it happening contact the BBB.
Linda c


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RE: Love antiques, but auctions are usually rigged

I would say don't get me going on this. But it was me who got me going. Even when the auctioneer isn't in on it. Experienced antique dealers know how to read an audience. And help each other bid things up. So they can recover something they paid too much for,or something that became shop worn, and then some. My wife used to sell antiques. She got out of it. She couldn't bring herself to be that sneaky. I went to many auctions for many years. you could always tell when someone came to buy who wasn't a dealer. They were walking into a lions den.Then you watched Joe Sh mo over in the corner bidding it up. I got so jaded. I would just say people should do their homework. Also look things over very carefully. Even if someone placed a piano lamp on a chest of draws to discourage someone seeing the bottom. take the lamp off. or ask a runner to do it. so you can tip the chest upside down. But I still love antiques! filix.


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RE: Love antiques, but auctions are usually rigged

My 82 yr old uncle is an avid auction goer, he knows an auctioneer or two in my rural home area that is not always above board. He just avoids their auctions. Me, I go, look, inspect (have no problems getting on the floor to see the bottom of a large/heavy piece). Set my price in my head and don't let my heart carry me away. ;) I do think auctions are fun. But will admit I went to one once that was so loaded with fresh to the market antiques (furniture mostly) you could tell the crowd was filled with dealers. Rumor was many were from the city (Chicago). The prices that things were being bid up to were just ludicrous, triple to quadruple what they should have gone for. Most locals dropped out early. Lots of grumbling that day at that auction.

Did something trip this for you, bad auction experience this weekend?


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RE: Love antiques, but auctions are usually rigged

Did something trip this for you, bad auction experience this weekend?

No this was years ago. Now enough of my negativity. Sorry.:) I got it off my chest!
I love Americana.


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RE: Love antiques, but auctions are usually rigged

That's one reason I love craigslist.

KarinL


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RE: Love antiques, but auctions are usually rigged

I have gone to a few major actions held by wholesale antique auctioneers that are open to the general public which includes dealers. A friend and I go just for the fun of it. Let it be said that you need to know what stuff is worth. I deal a little bit but I mainly purchase items for our home and I have a couple of preferred dealers I know well.


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RE: Love antiques, but auctions are usually rigged

I've got some of my best antiques at auctions, and around here they're almost exclusively estate auctions. It draws the same crowd of collectors and dealers. Most of them are very above board and our auctioneers have their own followings. The old regulars know their style and a few of them will say things like "It might be McCoy". Well, that's a lot different than saying it is McCoy. If you fall for those tactics then I have a bridge or two to sell. LOL. I usually yell back, with yeah, and it might NOT be.

I don't worry when the real dealers are there, as they never run up items more than what they're worth wholesale, because they gotta make a buck when they hit the shop. I do sometimes leave when the big-city folks show up looking for Americana and start bidding wars on stuff with out of line prices. They're the ones who spoil a good auction, and not the crew.

Yes, I've seen a shill or two but not frequently. Sales are final, it's strictly caveat emptor. If you don't know the value of stuff, then auctioneering should be a spectator sport. I don't feel particularly sorry for anyone who overbids on junk. And I think even the best of us have done it on occasion. You just chalk it up to experience.

Love auctions.


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RE: Love antiques, but auctions are usually rigged

Ditto on craigslist. One thing I would like to see. When a dealer has some stuff he can't seem to sell. Pass it through a auction house with a reserve. Don't pass it through an auction that advertises "no reserve". Then have a few friends come and sit in seats with a good view. Then have them raise their paddle while they carefully watch how bad someone seems to want it. Then backout just in time. Just be honest. I talked to a dealer friend of ours about about this once. He thought that it was rare. I asked someone I knew who had been a dealer for over 60 years. And he admitted to me he did that all the time. He is no longer alive. He told me it was just part of the business. Different strokes I quess.


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RE: Love antiques, but auctions are usually rigged

By a conservative estimate estimate I have been to about 2000 auctions in my adult life.
More than a few times I have bid on something with "no reserve" and backed out at the last minute....because at that cost it would be a great buy and I could sell it and make a buck.
By a huge margin, most auctions are honest and above board!
What those of you who say a sale with dealers is not honest....simply don't know how an auction works!
"Sold to the highest bidder"....
I have many MANY lovely things in my house because I thought "I can't let it go that cheap!!" and raised my hand....and bought it for way under the usual price!
Is that bad? I didn't go to the sale intending to buy that silver coffee pot....but the price was such I couldn't resist. Should I have let it sell to the first bidder who bid $10? Just because I wasn't looking for a silver coffee pot? Is it wrong to bid on something because it's going for "under the money".....and back out when it gets to the price it should be selling for? Is it wrong to think that if anyone is going to be a bargain, I want to be in the running?
I firmly disagree that most auctions are rigged. You just think you should be the only one who gets a steal.
Remember....you can always outbid a dealer....because a dealer has to make a buck....but also a dealer is more likely to know what a piece is worth.
Linda C


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RE: Love antiques, but auctions are usually rigged

I have many MANY lovely things in my house because I thought "I can't let it go that cheap!!" and raised my hand....and bought it for way under the usual price!
Is that bad?

Certainly not! Good for you. But that was not your coffee pot. I have been to some auctions that seem to be above board. But I still feel most have something sneaky going on. Best wishes.


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RE: Love antiques, but auctions are usually rigged

Remember....you can always outbid a dealer....because a dealer has to make a buck....but also a dealer is more likely to know what a piece is worth.

Not necessarily ~ worth, price commanded, what the market will bear - can be very much based on dealer's clientele and geographic location. Even basic supply and demand economics can dictate "worth". Good example is that auction I referenced above, with all the fresh to the market nice furniture. In my current area (fringes of midwestern 'burbs-rural) and my hometown area (different state, very rural), those pieces would have been in a pretty close price range either at auction prices or in local shop after retail markup. Suburban or rural retail would have been much lower than what urban dealers bid/paid. But when urban dealers with chic little shops come into play, they have a different clientele. Urban employment generally pays more, and urban cost of living is generally much higher. So an urban shopper in an urban gallery would not be as prone to sticker shock as a suburban or rural shopper visiting chic urban boutique. So 'urban chic gallery' dealer can command a higher price than the little mom and pop shop located on the town square of the local county seat. What one a dealer can charge and get for a piece in suburban and rural midwest areas and what one can charge and get at a trendy boutique in the Gold Coast or Near North side area of a city like Chicago can have a wide range. Have been to shops in both geographic locations, and turned away from many an urban retail offering because of the price. But many a city dweller would have no problem paying that price (and even thinking it's a good deal), especially if they're more urban gallery shoppers than suburban/rural shoppers or auction attendees.

What I saw at that particular auction was not bidding by urban dealers based on an items worth, but based on retail price they could command. Definitely higher price bracket than 'worth' would be in suburban to rural setting. Keep in mind these were not rare or highly prized pieces. (Those, imho, are a different animal.) These were just really nice antique pieces in good shape that are not so common the market is saturated, nor were they so rare that they are only going to show up at Sotheby's. Rather in the middle somewhere that would be classified as a nice find.


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RE: Love antiques, but auctions are usually rigged

Moonshadow I agree. very well stated!!!


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RE: Love antiques, but auctions are usually rigged

and again it comes back to "worth"...the "worth"...what it would sell for is different in different areas. A few years back Rococco revival was not worth a thing on the east coast areas...but much sought after on the west coast. Golden oak was worth even less on the east coast but very popular in the mid-west. And it's obvious that a piece will sell for more at a chic boutique with soft music playing and tea and cookies offered to all, frequented by designers looking for the perfect "thing" to fill out a room for a client, than in a little store front in a rural town with shelves full of 1950's collectables. For one thing, the rent on the shop is more in the city than in the small town.

And then there are "pickers"....some of my good friends are "pickers"....they attend auctions and garage sales and read the for-sale ads and fill their garages or barns with stuff to sell. They have a few regular clients who come through with a truck on their way to California or Texas. Those buyers then truck the stuff to their own list of dealers.
So you see that very often that piece has passed through many hands before making it's way to the chic little shop in the up-scale neighborhood.
Granted the same walnut wash stand would bring more money in Winnetka than it would in a little shop in rural Missouri, but then so will a dozen eggs from organically fed free range chickens bring more in the fancy food store than it will form the stand at the end of the farmer's drive way.
It has to do with the rent, the taxes paid, the cost of manning the store and the transportation.
That's not a "fixed" auction....that's just the way it works. A dealer always bids on an item based on what they think they can sell it for.
Felix, sounds like you are not attending household and estate sales....that's wehre the good buys are. Auction houses that are stocked by dealers are selling stuff that already have several layers of profit taking built in....not a good spot for bargains!
Linda C


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RE: Love antiques, but auctions are usually rigged

I guess the question begs, those of you that think you are geting screwed at auctions, why do you go to them?? First time is their fault. Second time is yours.


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RE: Love antiques, but auctions are usually rigged

Good point! I guess because there's not many other places to get them. If you need to keep your space filled sometimes you have to go. So I should quit my whining and move on! I have met allot of nice people in the business. Sounds like theres allot of them right here. Knowledgeable too. filix.


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RE: Love antiques, but auctions are usually rigged

Granted the same walnut wash stand would bring more money in Winnetka than it would in a little shop in rural Missouri, but then so will a dozen eggs from organically fed free range chickens bring more in the fancy food store than it will form the stand at the end of the farmer's drive way.
It has to do with the rent, the taxes paid, the cost of manning the store and the transportation.
That's not a "fixed" auction....that's just the way it works. A dealer always bids on an item based on what they think they can sell it for.

This is getting into a macroeconomics discussion, lol. Of course things like rent and transportation factor in for a dealer! As it does for anyone who is in business to sell wares. But I was talking about what can define "worth" as it relates to dealers bidding at auctions and how it can swing the direction of the sale. And how what a dealer bids is not necessarily an accurate reflection of an item's true worth. Ultimately, all things considered, a vendor's retail still has to be in a range their customers will pay. Doesn't matter if it's an egg at the end of a guy's driveway in Bugtussle or a Stickley table on the north shore. ;)
Anyway, to clarify my illustration wasn't an inference by any means that it was a 'fixed auction'. Certainly not! I was simply relaying a story about how a handful took the fun out of it for many. But it is what it is. Urban chic dealers have to get their goods from somewhere too and if they want to travel down this way where the demographic meter changes, get in bidding wars with each other to the point they become the entertainment, more power to 'em if they can recoup the $ and then some. ;)

filix, I gather you have a space to fill to sell your finds? Do you hit garage sales, too? My best scores, without question, are all happenstance garage sale finds. Wasn't even intentionally going to any of the sales, just happened to see it and stop. No doubt you've seen the Antiques Roadshows incidents where someone has a piece that is valued in multiple thousands or more and it was a garage sale find? Makes my heart race when I see that, lol. I'm still waiting for that kind of score to fall in my lap!


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RE: Love antiques, but auctions are usually rigged

No space to fill. We closed our last rented space about 7 years ago. I remember that Hepplewhite stand "I Think"on the roadshow. Someone bought at a yard sale. And it went for six figures. All I ever find at yard sales is one left boot. I'm still waiting for that Paul revere silver :) filix


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RE: Love antiques, but auctions are usually rigged

All I ever find at yard sales is one left boot.
LOL, yes, there are a lot of those to wade through as well! ;D


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RE: Love antiques, but auctions are usually rigged

Yeah, Filix, and I'm waiting for an original copy of the Declaration of Independence! LOL!


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RE: Love antiques, but auctions are usually rigged

Oh the dreams and aspirations of the antique collectors! I have this recurring dream. Someone calls to say they have a barn full of old stuff. And they want to just get rid of it. The barn is filled with oak furniture with a Gustav Stickley stamp on every one. Only to wake up and find its full of delaminating depression furniture:) filix


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RE: Love antiques, but auctions are usually rigged

Filix have a few friends come and sit in seats with a good view. Then have them raise their paddle while they carefully watch how bad someone seems to want it. Then backout just in time

Long time ago I had a friend who ran an antique shop, and a local dealer was notorious for running the prices up on his stuff that way, using his non-dealer friends ... so we arranged for some friends of our own. My dealer friend had watched him often enough to learn his signals to his team of shills.

Out of the first 10 lots he was running up, we managed to leave his friends holding the top bid on 8 of them - Waterford prices for dime store glassware - and the money he made on the other two lots didn't begin to cover the house fees.


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RE: Love antiques, but auctions are usually rigged

I know this sounds mean but... I love it! Great story! Beat em at their own. Thankyou Lazygardens. filix.


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